Dr. M.J. Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Antibiotic Resistance
What are antibiotics?
Antibiotics are medicines that fight (or prevent) infections that are caused by bacteria. Bacteria are also called germs. Antibiotics can't fight infections caused by viruses (colds and the flu).
What is antibiotic resistance?
When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics, after a while the antibiotic can't fight the germs anymore. Being exposed to the same antibiotic for a long time can make some germs change. Sometimes germs just change by themselves. Some of the changes make the germs so strong, they can fight back against antibiotics and win the fight. These germs are said to be "resistant" to this antibiotic. Antibiotic resistance is becoming a common problem in many parts of the United States.
Why should I worry about antibiotic resistance?
If you take antibiotics can't fight resistant to the germs they are supposed to kill, your infection can last longer. Instead of getting better, your infection might get worse. You might have to make several visits to your doctor's office. You might have to take different medicines or go to a hospital for antibiotics given in your veins.
At the same time, your family members or other people you come in contact with may catch the resistant germs that you have. Then these people might also get infections that are hard to cure.
Every time you take antibiotics when you don't really need them, you increase the chance that you will get an illness someday that is caused by germs that are resistant to antibiotics.

So when is it OK for me to take antibiotics?
Antibiotics are OK for illnesses that are caused by germs. These illnesses include infections such as strep throat, urinary tract infections and ear infections.
When are antibiotics not needed?
Antibiotics are not needed for--and won't work against--illnesses such as a cold, the flu (influenza) or mononucleosis (mono).
You should not ask your doctor to give you or your children antibiotics for a viral illness. Instead, ask your doctor what you can do to feel better.
How should I take the antibiotics that my doctor prescribes?
Follow your doctor's directions carefully. Your doctor will tell you to take all the antibiotic. Don't save some of the medicine for the next time you're sick.
What else can I do to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance?
Wash your hands with soap and water before you eat and after you use the bathroom. Regular hand washing will help keep you healthy and prevent the spread of germs.
Ask your doctor if you have all the vaccinations (shots) you need to protect yourself from illness.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/antibioticresistance
Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics: